Like Sigmund Freud, Erikson believed that an individuals overall personality develops in a series of stages. Erikson believed this was the most important period in a person’s life. Erik Erikson’s theory was there are eight stages of human development, which last an entire life-span. Through each developmental stage, each task presents a catastrophe for the individual. Erikson defined a catastrophe as a turning point of increased vulnerability and enhanced potential.
Erikson said, “Hope is both the earliest and the most indispensable virtue inherent in the state of being alive. If life is to be sustained hope must remain, even where confidence is wounded, trust impaired” (McLeod, 2008). Each stage has a positive characteristic and a negative characteristic. If positive characteristics are fulfilled then the future will look good. The lack of reinforcement to the positive characteristics of Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development effects can be terrible, especially if the only characteristics fulfilled are by the negative aspects.
In example, if a child was hungry or scared because it didn’t see it’s parent, instinctively it would begin to cry for attention. If he or she knows that the hunger or fear will be addressed based on his or her past experiences, and the parent arrives with the care they need they will develop a sense of trust, that all can be right with the world. With mistrust, say if a parent had fallen asleep or was lax with addressing the child’s needs or was just negligent in feeding him or keeping a consistent schedule, he will feel uncared for and lack a stability.
The central issue that infant’s resolve in this stage is “Can I trust others? “. Trust is developed when the caregiver is nurturing which gives the child a feel of comfort. When a child receives positive care, the child will then trust his or her caregiver, providing beneficial development. On the reverse, when a child does not receive positive care giving then mistrust is developed. To develop successfully with trust, and a child will graduate to the second stage around the ages of one to three years old, they move successfully to autonomy versus shame and doubt.
Each stage is characterized by a psychosocial crisis, which is based on physiological development, but also on demands put on the individual by parents and/or society. Ideally, the crisis in each stage should be resolved by the ego in that stage, in order for development to proceed correctly (Davis, 1995). When a child or infant gains trust in his or her caregiver, they realize that their behavior is their own. Infants discover and learn new concepts and tasks daily.
Since learning and independence is important in early age the negative impacts follow a person through their entire life according to Erikson’s model. Because an infant is utterly dependent, developing trust is based on the dependability and quality of the child’s caregivers. Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of hope (McLeod, 2008). If a child develops trust, he will feel safe and secure in the world. Caregivers who aren’t consistent, emotionally distant, or reject their needs contribute to feelings of mistrust in the child they care for.
An inability to develop trust will result in fear and attach a belief that the world is inconsistent and unpredictable. If the care has been harsh or inconsistent, unpredictable and unreliable then the infant will develop a sense of mistrust and will not have confidence in the world around them or in their abilities to influence events (McLeod,2008). No child is going to develop a complete sense of 100 percent trust or 100 percent doubt. Erikson thought that successful development was about striking a balance between the opposing sides.
When it happens children acquire hope and Erikson thought that was an openness to experience backed by past experiences of when their needs weren’t met or a fear wasn’t relieved quickly. Therefore, it is important to development to have a successful resolution of this stage for it lays the foundation for each successive stage. If a stage isn’t resolved correctly, later stages may remain unresolved. Parents are primarily responsible for satisfying this stage of development in their child. It is imperative parents are attentive to their infant’s needs so trust can be developed.